Thursday, June 27, 2019

The New Covenant part 1: Ramafications and considerations.

Jer 31:33-34  “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  (34)  And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Either the New Covenant is in force or it is not. Has the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant... simply limped along side the New Covenant for the past 2000 plus years as so much of evangelical doctrine and dogma suggests? The answer, I believe is a resounding no! Here is the fact as I see it from the preponderance of scriptural evidence. The New Covenant is the only covenant in force today. If that is not the case, and we await some cataclysmic apocalypse then NO Gentile is truly redeemed. Look at this verse from the (little apocalypse) in Luke's Gospel: Luke 21:28  "But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near.” Here you have it plain and simple, if the apocalypse did not happen as prophesied in the first century there is NO REDEMPTION.

However, it did happen as prophesied with the destruction of the temple. So as a result, the New Covenant is completely and solely in force. This is ultra important in understanding the gospel and the transformation it brings. The real transformation process is the direct result of having peace with Father God. That peace with Father comes from the 34th verse of the above passage from Jeremiah. "I will forgive their wickedness and I will never remember their sins." This is precisely why a proper understanding of the gospel is so important. Paul explains it this way in Ephesians 2:15-17,  "having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,  (16)  and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  (17)  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near." This is what brings peace with the Father. The Old Covenant because of human flesh was enmity with us. However, Paul also explains that it is being justified, declared righteous by the work of Christ that brings the peace.

Rom 5:1  Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is precisely the fact that brings about supernatural transformation and it was what turned the world upside down in the first century. Because of the gospel one is set free from being accepted by God based on obedient behavior. The Obedience is simply trusting Christ for righteousness no matter what. This brings peace with the Father and more than that it produces love for the Father. That is where all the transforming power stems from. It is not antinomian to believe the gospel. That is simply a perverted view of the gospel that is brought on by the leaven of the Pharisees which as infiltrated most all of Christianity.

The New Covenant is not as evangelical doctrine erroneously depicts it. It is not a hybrid mixture of the New Covenant and the Old Covenant. It is simply a new and better way!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The peace that passeth understanding... surpassing peace.

Php 4:6-7 CSB  "Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  (7)  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Living worry free is a tall order. I would say beyond any doubt, that naturally, on one's own, it is impossible to do for an entire life span. But, I can testify that at times at least, I have tapped into the peace that surpasses all understanding, and it is only because of lack of focus, that I do not experience it all the time. Herein lies one of the most important aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, I believe that it is the most important aspect of the gospel. I am pretty much a universalist. I believe that Christ's sacrifice was efficacious for all. Oh, I have not ruled out the remote possibility of annihilation of unbelievers. I suppose it is possible. I have ruled out, and for sound biblical reasons eternal punishment and torture. However, the question invariably arises, "if you were right and all benefit from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, what possible reason is there to preach the gospel?" The answer to that question is the gospel, properly proclaimed, understood, and believed produces a peace that surpasses all understanding.

It is sad that there are not more fellowships that would allow saints to gather, and contemplate the great gift that the gospel of Christ provides and affords. The pristine gospel produced this peace that surpasses all understanding. By pristine gospel, I mean the gospel taught by the first century apostles Paul being chief among them. I am constantly reminded of Paul's words recorded in Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Peace with God is the peace that surpasses all understanding. The pristine gospel is meant to encourage and assure.

Knowing that one is not on a working contract with God that determines favor is ultra important in having the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is not the way that seems right unto man. It is easy to think that one is on a working contract of sorts with the Father and that is utter nonsense in view of the pristine gospel of Jesus Christ. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself not counting trespasses and short comings. He made Jesus to be made sin so that those resting in the gospel could become the righteous of God in Him Jesus.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Greatest in the Kingdom

Mat 18:12-14  What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray?  (13)  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over that sheep more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.  (14)  In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

The eighteenth chapter of Matthew begins with a question from Jesus close companions, one of his chosen twelve disciples. Here is the question: Matt 18:1 CSB  "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” We live in a world that measures greatness by accomplishment. The same is true with the church culture for the most part. One of the concepts that plays out in the legalistic mindset is using the metaphor's of babes and seasoned saints. When I use the term legalistic mindset, I am referring to the read and do mentality that stems from a legal constitutional reading of scripture. There is a lot of evidence that this passage of Matthew can be enlightened by a different understanding than is traditionally understood. While that is true of most passages of scripture it is especially true with the way evangelical dogma has framed and presented Jesus message with respect to a legal constitutional read and do mindset. The reason is that it appears that this passage refers to sin and hell when it is really speaking of religion verses faith. It is important to realize that Jesus often used hyperbole to get his points across and this passage is an example. Verses 18 and 19 explain that one should pluck out ones eye or cut off ones hand or foot. So when Jesus answers the question about the greatest in the kingdom he is not literally saying that children are preferred over adults as you can see in Matt 18:2-4.

So let's get back to the idea of babes and seasoned saints. The greatest in the kingdom of heaven then are those according to Jesus, that humble themselves like a child. They are the so called "babes" and not the seasoned saints. The seasoned saints, by implication, in this passage are those who are steeped and studied in religion and take offense to the radical aspect of Jesus message as it criticizes the status quo theologically. Let's look directly at this passage. Mat 18:2-4 CSB  "He called a child and had him stand among them.  (3)  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  (4)  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." What is the point in His analogy? One must have child like faith. Children accept much of what they hear from the adults around them on blind faith. This is the criteria for being the greatest in the kingdom.

If you read Hebrews chapter three and four carefully, it will become apparent that faith is obedience, and unbelief and sin are synonymous. So then, the seasoned saint is only the greatest in the kingdom if they hang on to their child like faith and allow God to prove himself over time. It is not a seasoning that comes from reading and doing. It is a seasoning that comes from believing and being. Yet, this is not the common belief within evangelical Christianity. It becomes instructive then to read Matthew chapter 18 with this view in mind. The warning that is given to the one who would cause one of the little ones to sin/stumble is a warning against destroying child like faith in the gospel in favor of reading and doing and growing in a legalistic way. It is a warning against those who would try to get people who had believed in Jesus to turn away from their belief in Him based on religious interpretation of the sacred texts. Furthermore it is to cause the so called "babe" to question the sufficiency of the initial simple gospel message.  It is the attempt to link faith in the gospel to a read and do mentality that proves the efficacy of the gospel message by the "babe's" ability to read the text and adopt "correct" behavior and response to the gospel reality.

It will take additional posts to unpack Matthew chapter eighteen, but for this one, the ninety nine are not the lost souls of the world per se, but rather those who have fallen away from the simplicity of the gospel by alleged more enlightened teaching. The ones who are causing the little ones/babes to stumble are the religious establishment the "seasoned saints."

Friday, April 5, 2019

The gospel revealed to Paul

Joh 8:32  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The pristine gospel as revealed to the Apostle Paul is logically and psychologically sound. You may ask what precisely do you mean by that statement? What I mean is that the gospel, as revealed to and explained by Paul, understood by the first century saints, has a logical and psychological basis that is by nature transformative. In other words, it logically transforms based upon satisfying a psychological need in humanity. What is that psychological need? It is to be set free from guilt. S. Bruce Narramore has written a book entitled "No Condemnation." Unfortunately it is no longer in print though a few copies are available. In this book he sites guilt as a prime cause of psychological pathology. I personally believe he is right, and I have to admit that I have had my bouts with guilt over my many years.

I also can say that over time, my understanding of the pristine gospel as it was understood and explained in the first century by the Apostle Paul has set me free from guilt for the most part, and if there was a group of individuals who believed the pristine gospel, regularly proclaimed it to each other, would not allow compromise to make it ineffectual, I think that guilt could be completely eliminated as a psychological force. While I say that my understanding of the gospel has greatly diminished guilt in me, I still have bouts with it occasionally until the Holy Spirit reminds me of the truth of the pristine gospel which has at its foundation imputed righteousness and justification by the faith OF Christ Jesus. The point of this is that if the church in general had the pristine gospel as its teaching, guilt and condemnation would cease to exist and peace, joy and love could dominate the lives of the saints.

I mention peace, joy, and love in that order because I believe that it describes the flow of how the gospel becomes supernaturally transformative. They are in fact the fruit of the Spirit but in a slightly different order than what Paul writes in Galatians chapter five. I chose this order because I think it is the natural flow of how the gospel operates. I base it on Roman's chapter five. Rom 5:1  "Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The source of the transformation is from the peace one receives from the pristine gospel message. So it flows naturally in this way... peace -> joy-> love. The gospel gives the individual peace with the Father because of justification and imputed righteousness. This peace produces inexplicable joy because the person is set free from all guilt. This naturally produces a deep and abiding love for the Father. It is a REAL love. It is not a love that comes from a commandment but rather, a love that comes from the unmerited favor of the Father. Furthermore, it is the only way one can truly love the Father.

The Apostle John stated it this way: 1Jn 4:10  "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins." Peace with the Father through the cross of Christ is the driving force for our love for God, and it is the expression of God's love for us. So when Paul wrote love, joy and peace he was referring to God's love which produces joy and peace and in turn produces real love for God. This completely eliminates the schizophrenic doctrine of current evangelical Christianity.

Currently, preachers spend far more time promoting guilt in individuals than they promote peace with the Father. They try to use guilt as a motivating tool to cause people to strive for more righteousness and holiness. The problem is that it is self righteousness and that only adds to the cycle of guilt. Promoting guilt is spiritually abusive and is counter productive in creating a desired result. The real operation of the pristine gospel is so simple. It promotes peace with the Father and love for the Father and will result in individuals who are driven by love to please the Father. This will only come from a place where GRACE is the sole driver, with LAW being the teacher that demonstrates the need for grace.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Looking again at spiritual abuse

Act 3:6-8  But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!”  (7)  Then Peter took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were made strong.  (8)  He jumped up, stood and began walking around, and he entered the temple courts with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

A subtle but devastating form of spiritual abuse is rampant today. Especially in the name it and claim it camp of evangelical Christianity. Here is the gist of the concept. If you believe you will receive, and if you do not receive it is either because you have not believed enough, not been patient enough, or not listened to all that God has told you to do, and therefore, it is not God's fault that you don't have this or that, it is not the fault of the preacher preaching the prosperity, but it is your fault for not having faith enough, patience enough, or obedient enough.

Take special notice of the above scripture passage that I have presented. It was not the man's faith that healed him. It was Peter's faith. Yes you read correctly. It was the faith of the preacher. I am weary of all of the preachers who perpetuate this kind of depressing abuse. Most of the time they never even mention the gospel or Jesus the gospel made flesh. They ignore that the purpose of the signs and wonders were to establish the truth of the gospel message and nothing else. Look at this passage from Acts:  Act 14:3  "So they stayed there for a considerable time, speaking out courageously for the Lord, who testified to the message of his grace, granting miraculous signs and wonders to be performed through their hands." There you see plainly that the purpose of the miraculous signs and wonders were to establish the truth of the pristine gospel message. More than that, the miracles came through the hands of the apostles and not through the faith of those receiving the miracles.

Yes, you can find places where Jesus rewarded faith with miracles, but it was ALWAYS for a gospel purpose. This is true through out all of the New Testament. So let's bring it back to spiritual abuse. There are complex factors at play in our sojourn here on planet earth. There are faith giants that have not been cured of cancer. There are faith giants that have not been wealthy but rather have had a meager and dare I say difficult existence.

Yes, the New Covenant promises health and wealth. Yes, the curses of Deuteronomy 28 have been alleviated by the cross. But that does not mitigate the fact that people of strong faith suffer. Too many people in the prosperity movement have enriched themselves at the expense of the very people hoping for a break-through that could least afford the sacrifice.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A warning from Ezekiel: Woe to the Pastors....

Eze 34:4 NET  "You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them."

This passage in Ezekiel begins with this statement found in verse four b: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock?" I have written several blog posts over time that deal with spiritual abuse. I want to emphasize the portion of Eze 43:4 that speaks of ruling over the flock with force and harshness. I have known pastors with what I would call a pastors heart which DO NOT rule with force and harshness, but there are all too many who DO. Furthermore, there is a natural tendency among congregations to worship the pastor and elevate him or her above what should normally be the case. Some pastors demand it but many more simply do not discourage it. I realize that the main thrust of Ezekiel's message is focused on the kings of Israel and their leaders. But, there is also a way in which this warns about future events, and one could make the case that in the church, the pastors who are spiritually abusive fit the intent of this passage. 

It is important to introduce the concept of fractals at this point. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it means that exact things and sometimes similar things are repeated over and over again. If you would like a better understanding of fractals you can google the term and find the definition on the web. This is a passage that illustrates the concept of fractals because while the intended audience was Israel and the intended subject was about Israel's kings, the church is definitely spiritual Israel and the pastor's are very similar to a monarch.

Paul stated his prime directive in 1 Cor 2:2. He determined to not know anything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (the gospel.) If the great apostle of the Gentile Church had decided that the gospel was his only edict, how much more should pastors have the same prime directive. The gospel of grace should be paramount in all they do. It should be the foundation of everything they are called upon to do for their particular flocks. Sadly though, the reality is that the gospel plays very little in the week to week ministry of most pastors. They erroneously believe that they must continually pressure their followers to be more obedient by focusing on a legal constitutional, read and do approach to scripture. They should instead be proclaiming the gospel of grace all the time. They should be pointing out that it is the grace of God that leads to a repentant heart. They should explain the foundational pristine operation of the gospel. What is that you ask? It is that peace with God through grace is established by reinforcing and explaining that they are justified by the faith of Jesus.

The pastors should be emphasizing that their followers can rest in the gospel twenty-four-seven. In not doing this, they are actually perpetuating the job that was relegated to the devil. They become the accuser of the brothers and sisters. In fact, they accuse them day and night before God, angels and the assembly. How many times have you attended services where the pastor left you accused? There will come a day of reckoning of that you can be sure, however that day will be far to late for all of the spiritual abuse laid at the feet of the saints of God who should be daily encouraged in the gospel.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The yoke that neither we nor our ancestors could bear, Peter and Acts Fifteen.

Act 15:10  So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

What was the yoke that neither Peter or his ancestors could bear? This is an interesting question with a most important answer. Let's begin by stating what it is not. It was not temple service and sacrifice. They were able to bear that. It was not the dietary laws. They were able to bear that. It was not the study of Torah. They could bear that. The yoke that they could not bear was the yoke of gaining righteousness from obedience to the law. No matter how hard they tried, and Paul stated that as a Pharisee, when it came to righteousness that came from the law he was blameless, he/they could not cleanse their conscience from dead works. The yoke Peter spoke of in Acts chapter fifteen was trying to gain acceptability to God from obedience.

The yoke can best be understood by two passages from Deut 28. They are Deut 28:1 & 15. Deut 28:1-14 gives all the promises for doing ALL the law, and Deut 28-15-68 explains in great detail all the curses for not doing ALL the Law.. I find it interesting that their are fourteen verses of blessings and fifty-three verses of curses. Therein lies the yoke. So many modern day pastors, especially of the Pentecostal ilk, are happy to speak of the blessings, but do not really explain the curses, but alas people can read, and there in lies the yoke. The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy explains in detail the yoke Peter was speaking of. Furthermore, many of the Pentecostal Pastors that emphasize Deut 28 do use verses 15-68 to try to whip their congregations into shape placing the yoke that Peter described in Acts fifteen and according to Peter put God to the test.

Many of the Messianic Jews movement look at Deuteronomy twenty-eight, and say that all doesn't really mean all but rather means to try with all your might to do all of the Law. Let's look at the passages from the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) Old Testament. Deu 28:1 JPS  "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth." AND Deu 28:15 JPS  "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee." Notice that it reads to observe to do all his commandments, but the Hebrew word translated observe is shawmar which means to be careful to do ALL. To do all is plainly the meaning and cannot be any other way.

The remainder of protestant pastors would say that the yoke was not the decalog (ten commandments) but the temple and dietary laws. They would say that one must obey the ten for sure and would argue that the Spirit enables one to obey the Ten Commandments, and additionally all that they call the moral law. Again they are putting on the necks of their followers the yoke Peter warned all who read it not to. The reason he gave was that none of the first century Jews and Jewish Church, nor any of their ancestors could bear that yoke.

It is a yoke by virtue of the legal constitutional relationship of the covenant to the Jewish People. This is precisely why Jesus changed the legal constitutional focus of the scripture to a redemptive one. It was not to make people lawless. Quite frankly, people are already lawless, and a law unto themselves, yes, even the most religious. Observation can easily show that the more religious, and the more committed to religion a person is, the more judgmental, self righteous, and unloving they are. The truth is that the yoke cannot produce loving righteous individuals. That can only be accomplished by the uncompromised peace that accompanies the gospel of grace. Sadly, religion and religious orthodoxy has perpetuated the yoke for two thousand plus years. Isn't it time to really explore the gospel and set aside the yoke once for all time?

The New Covenant part 1: Ramafications and considerations.

Jer 31:33-34  “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the LORD. “I will put my instruct...